“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Friday, September 29, 2006

This Is Important

Because Rivethead and Clint liked the story on Van Os, I am posting the editorial I wrote for the Sept. 28 issue. It is as much a story as I is an editorial, however. And it won't please Mr. Swinford, for sure.

Here it is:

The smell test.

We all know what that is. It’s when something just doesn’t smell right. Most of the stench comes from partisan politics.

The smell in question today arises from allegations attorney general candidate David Van Os recently made: Texas Republicans are using “pay to play” to guide state activities.

Van Os wanted to connect the dots between one of the Panhandle’s legislators, Houston home builder Robert (Bob) Perry and his wife, who gave six-figure contributions to Attorney General Greg Abbott’s re-election campaign, and an attorney general’s ruling on oversight of the home construction industry.

Van Os said the donations came a day before state Rep. David Swinford asked the attorney general to rule whether the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts had authority to audit the performance of the Texas Residential Construction Commission.

Van Os said the TRCC protects home builders.

The Texas Ethics Commission database confirms that on Dec. 15, 2005, Perry, of Bob Perry Homes, and Doylene Perry, of Houston, each dropped a $50,000 check into the attorney general’s war chest.

Public records confirm that on Dec. 16 Swinford, R-Dumas, asked for an AG opinion on the comptroller’s investigation. Perry, no relation to the governor, gave Swinford $2,000 on Dec. 20, 2005, and $10,000 on Feb. 9, 2006.

In August 2005, Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, asked the comptroller to study whether the TRCC was doing its job of mediating disputes between home builders and home owners. The comptroller announced in a letter to Smith and in a news release Jan. 23, 2006, that the TRCC protected home builders.

So, is there a connection between the contributions and Swinford’s request of the attorney general, who ruled the comptroller had no authority to undertake that kind of performance audit?

Not according to Swinford.

“The Democrats are sort of after Bob Perry, the home builder, because he gives money to the Republicans, one of the larger Republican contributors, so they try to draw lines that are really not there, which is sort of what they’re doing,” Swinford said.

“He was not accurate whenever he said that I was involved in some kind of a deal here. It might have been a series of coincidences or something, but I am telling you right now I am not involved in anything that has anything to do with anything inappropriate. I just don’t do that.”

Van Os was not accurate in suggesting or indicating a connection between what he and Perry were doing, Swinford said. Swinford said he never questioned the comptroller’s right to audit the financial performance of the TRCC. He questioned the comptroller’s right to “rulemaking,” which he said was the Legislature’s purview.

What prompted his letter?

He explained he is the chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on State Affairs, which has oversight and jurisdiction over TRCC and the comptroller had “usurped” his authority. But, Swinford never directly answered what prompted him to ask for an AG ruling.

“It has nothing to do anything else,” he said. “That letter was written a whole lot longer before, a long time before, any of this happened.”

Later in the interview, Swinford said the contributions weren’t a coincidence — he was running for re-election. He is a staunch conservative getting support from another staunch conservative.

Swinford wrote off Van Os’ assertions as “campaign issues.”

When asked if there might be an appearance of impropriety, he said, “There is an appearance that somebody says it and then somebody comes along and says there’s an appearance. And that’s it. It was not related at all.” Swinford had plenty of opportunity to answer questions directly.

If he had, he might have passed the smell test.